Review: Erika Costell Reads Haters a Royal Decree on 'Queen'

The subtle, addictive single is a pulsating pop-R&B jam produced by two of the talents behind Sing

Erika Costell is a social media titan with several million fans across platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Social stars like Costell come with preconceived notions; the fact they do music often inspires eye rolls and utterances like, “of course.” Don’t discount Costell, though. Putting her in such a box is a mistake. 

Photo © Erika Costell

Photo © Erika Costell

Produced by movie musical genius Harvey Mason Jr. (Dreamgirls, Sparkle, Pitch Perfect, Sing) & Brittany Burton (Sing, Girls’ Generation), the new Erika Costell single “Queen” is a slinky, pop-R&B song with a subtle hook that won’t leave your head for days. The track pulses forward with a rhythmic sense of urgency; Mason Jr. also produced the Britney Spears Circus album cut “Mannequin,” which had a similarly striking beat, urgency and chilled vocal performance. 

The song’s brilliance is how it feels like it could be played anywhere, from a club, to the radio, to a movie trailer. This versatile song is imbued with the sense of casual confidence its vocal delivery and lyrics portray. Lines like, “They say that I don’t look right” bring to light the type of harsh critiques the singer faces on the daily. She brushes them off, though, singing on the chorus, “Don’t let shit get skin deep.”

At a svelte three minutes in length, “Queen” lends itself to repeat listens, which is essential in the streaming era. Addictive songs like this leave the audience wanting more, and flow seamlessly on “repeat” mode. Whether by intention or mistake, it’s a strength the song bolsters. 

Music Video

Directed by Shannon Curry and Costell herself, the “Queen” music video matches the song with moody visuals and a sense of wealth, without trying too hard. The jewelry her mostly-off-screen handlers adorn her with could be costume jewelry, but the audience would never know; Costell’s confident performance makes everything read like the real deal. Powerful moments like Costell destroying a full-length mirror in the desert convey metaphors of conquering self-doubt and body insecurities.


What’s your favorite song at the moment? Tweet me: @DerekPlease

Review: Robyn Feeds a Hungry Twin Cities Her Honey Tour

The international dance-pop icon creates both intimate and grand vibes in her overdue return to Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Wearing a slinky, sparkly dress with bejeweled nipples, and metallic silver boots, Robyn emerges to a hero’s welcome. The Swedish pop champion stands intentionally emotionless, like a Sims character waiting for their next instruction. A matter-of-fact delivery of three hits, then, “Minneapolis-St. Paul, man,” Robyn teases, “…wanna hang?” The resounding answer is yes, followed by a dynamic and wowing performance of her dance-pop hit “Indestructible” that had even the balcony section on their feet.

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Part of The Honey Tour, the March 5 show at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota supports her latest studio album, also titled Honey. Most of the songs are from the 2018 mid tempo LP, which had a somewhat mixed reception from fans. Many had hoped Robyn would deliver more uptempo songs like during her Body Talk album era. Still, the musicianship and subtly propulsive energy of Honey cannot be understated. 

Played live, its layered production becomes more apparent and Robyn’s career-best vocals have their ideal chance to shine. Robyn is equally as thrilled about playing the old stuff as the new stuff; not that it matters, as her crowd lives for both. The reason she receives such hero’s welcomes is how shamelessly dance-pop her sound has always been. In a music industry where clichéd acts give pop a bad name, Robyn never fails to deliver on the depth and nuances genre fans know are possible. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

The simplistic, yet striking stage design of the tour includes large draping from floor-to-ceiling, and stairs to a higher up section in the back where a large white sculpture of interlaced hands stands. The band plays on risers on the left and right sides of the stage. Robyn makes it all fade away, effortlessly drawing all the attention as she sings songs like “Beach2K20” and “Ever Again.” Soft and occasionally hard light shows change the entire mood of the iridescent, white set by coloring it differently. 

She also colors herself differently, emerging for the second half of the show in a custom outfit dedicated to Prince. Of course, it is purple. She could not “help herself,” she admits; however, it’s a pretty Purple Rain-esque ode to the legend and feels more sincere than singing a cover of that title track. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Dance-wise, the star was clearly feeling herself, with moves ranging from subtle vibing to the beat, to doing the worm across the entire stage floor. Her dance is effortless, emotional and striking; it feels like watching someone expose their vulnerabilities and life’s story in a visual way. Fitting coming from an artist whose biggest song is “Dancing On My Own,” a confessional opus about loving yourself after your lover finds another. The band cuts out and Robin points her mic to the loud crowd as they belt a pitch-perfect rendition of the first chorus. It’s a transcendent moment that feels unique to a Robyn show.

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

The singer keeps things upbeat for the remainder, including a standout, euphoric rendition of “Stars 4Ever.” With this and “Who Do You Love?” — her sincere and exciting collaboration with opening act Kindness — Robyn lands the show in high spirits. It feels like a preview of what’s to come; possibly more of the upbeat material some fans are longing for.


Exclusive Photo Gallery


What is your favorite Robyn track? Send me a message! @DerekPlease on Facebook

A $10 Prince Concert - October 24, 2015

Inside one of the final surprise full sets by the purple legend at Paisley Park

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Judith Hill, the acclaimed backup vocalist featured on TV's "The Voice," the Michael Jackson concert film "This Is It," and the Academy Award-winning documentary "20 Feet from Stardom," had just released her Prince-assisted debut album "Back in Time." Prince was throwing an impromptu album release party at his own Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen, MN. Unlike most of his previous pop-up Paisley parties, Prince took to Twitter ahead of time to confirm that he would be taking the stage as co-headliner. The kicker? Only a $10 cover charge to get in. Coming from the man who sometimes had intimate shows that started at $300 to get in, that was one big kicker. There was no way my friend Peter and I were going to miss this.

Prince tweeted me back, revealing that doors were opening at 10pm that night.

Prince tweeted me back, revealing that doors were opening at 10pm that night.

Only a legend like Prince could get people from across the globe to drop everything and fly to Minnesota for a last minute show, but that's what they did. Less than 12 hours after Prince's tweet went out, they pulled up in their airport taxis and rental cars, and queued up outside with the rest of us in a sort of degrading, very strict and cold outdoor line across the street from the chainlink gates of the Paisley parking lot. Today, it's safe to assume that not a single one of us, regardless of our country of residence, can possibly regret that spending that $10 to get in.

For all intents and purposes, it was a Prince show. I recall Judith Hill performing a couple of her album tracks, but mostly she was on the side of the stage watching Prince and his band, like the rest of us. It wasn't a continuous two-hour Prince set. Hello, it was a $10 show. The Purple One rightfully milked us for all we were worth energy-wise, constantly teasing us by leaving the stage after playing as little as one song... with hour-long breaks in between.

--- 

Full Setlist:

As Trains Go By - Judith Hill

Cry Cry Cry - Judith Hill cover)

All the Critics Love U in New York (Performed as All The Critics Love U in Minneapolis) - Prince

A Love Bizarre (Sheila E. cover) - Prince

The Glamorous Life (Sheila E. cover) - Prince

Stratus (Billy Cobham cover) - Prince

My People - Judith Hill

Use Me (Bill Withers cover) - Prince

Million $ Show - Prince & Judith Hill duet

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) [Sly & The Family Stone cover] - Prince

Alphabet St. - Prince

Sign “☮” the Times - Prince

777-9311 (The Time cover) - Prince

Hot Thing - Prince

 ---

This night was before the general public knew Prince was living full-time inside the Paisley Park compound. What a warm feeling it was when I finally found out that Peter and I had experienced some wonderful nights jamming, merch-shopping and spectating inside of Prince's private residence.

The cherry on top of our final Paisley adventure came when Prince strolled by the bench we were sitting on. Peter, at a loss for words, simply greets the Artist. "Oh hi, Prince," he says.

Prince's reply? "Hi," with that iconic, sexy wink.

 

Final Thoughts: Unplugged

I have strong memories of all my visits to Paisley Park, not because of snaps or status updates, but because I was in the moment every second I was there. No phones were allowed. Anyone seen with an electronic device would be escorted off the premises and banned forever.

Because of that, the time I spent at Paisley Park was likely the closest I'll ever get to living in the 1980s. I'm not saying Prince lived in the past in recent years - on the contrary, he was actually still the most forward-thinking musician alive - but the no-phones rule ensured we actually met new friends, danced, and most importantly, focused on the music.

Time passed so slowly, but it was actually kind of amazing. Peter and I repeatedly visited the lone clock in the second performance hall, which was high up and shrouded in darkness. There were times where a minute felt like 10 to me. Unplugging feels good. It's all but guaranteed that one day soon we as a culture will seek similarly unplugged experiences like Prince's old parties at Paisley Park.

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The Drag Roast of Heklina Brings the Heat and the Laughs

The Revry original is juicy and worth binging on 

Photo: Revry

Photo: Revry

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Drag queen roasts are currently a hot topic in the queer news sector, and for good reason; they always make a splash. By their very nature, roasts bring out the ultimate shade, which stems from shared love. A queen can only adequately roast their sister — or their frenemy. It’s a fool’s errand to try and roast someone you don’t know. 

That’s why The Drag Roast of Heklina is so brilliant. The Cheyenne Picardo-directed Revry original is a riotous, one hour, 20 minute-long Castro Theatre production starring some of the biggest queens in the game. From RuPaul’s Drag Race winners Bob the Drag Queen, Jinkx Moonsoon and Alaska, to legends like Julie Brown, Jackie Beat, Sister Roma, and Peaches Christ, everyone is there for the one reason: to skewer Heklina, their friend and guest of honor. 

In our community of devout Drag Race fans, specials like The Roast of Heklina are important. There are queens on and off cable television that are worth our attention — and that’s just “the tea” for today.

Watch The Drag Roast of Heklina here

Trailer


What are your favorite moments from the roast? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Trinity Taylor's Love for the Art Tour in Minneapolis

The season 9 stunner and All Stars 4 frontrunner held the Flip Phone-presented competition at The Pourhouse

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Trinity the Tuck emerged on The Pourhouse stage with an energetic lip-sync performance of the hypnotic, dark pop Kim Petras bop “Turn Off the Light (feat. Elvira).” Her tight lip sync, gorgeous ruffled outfit and energetic strutting got the night off to a fun start. 

She then threw herself into full-on MC mode, introducing the concept of her Love for the Art Tour, a nationwide series of drag competitions starring local queens. Minneapolis was the sixth tour stop so far, and as the night went on, she declared it the tightest competition yet. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

The talented Trinity MCed the competition with self-effacing humor, like telling the audience she would weigh 100 pounds if it weren’t for the “85 pounds of silicon” in her body. The first round was a look presentation, with each of the contestants showcasing a gag-worthy drag couture. The audience took the competition seriously, too, as I noticed a few people with paper and pen keeping track of their favorites.

  • Carińo came out in a blush-colored belted gown, and vamped along to a monologue about drag that transitioned into a Spanish-language pop song.

  • Allota Shots brought everyone back to the 90s wearing by their best Magic School Bus drag (literally, they stepped out of a bus they was wearing around their hips). From planets on their head, to makeup and hair inspired by Miss Frizzle, and a galaxy-pattern dress, the look was out of this world. Their look presentation was soundtracked to the show’s theme song, too. Trinity the Tuck said, “If drag doesn’t work out for you, you’ll be an arts and crafts genius, bitch!”

  • Giselle Ovarmé showcased an iridescent, crystallized costume with a silhouette reminiscent of The Fame Monster-era Lady Gaga. A haunting atmospheric track played in the background. Trinity thought Giselle looked like a mermaid.

  • Drag queen and king Meshika Shadows first appeared in a pink glitter gown with a long, flowing white train. The train was so big someone had to help them walk it down the stairs. They showcased the sparkling, flowing beauty of the piece while P!nk’s “What About Us” played.

  • The statuesque Laydee Swallowz donned a slim-fitting, glittery, star-covered dress with a matching headpiece. It was accentuated with dark aquamarine drapes hanging off their arms. Old Hollywood music hung in the background. They went above and beyond by getting on a microphone to describe their look as “glamour and Lisa Frank.”

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti rocked a stunning curled wig, which was perhaps the best hair of the night. Their black glittered dress caught the eye of many fans, and they received some of the most generous tips of the night. The chill R&B song “Queen” by Jessie J was a sensual backing track to their presentation.

  • Ty Torres wore a large feathered piece around their shoulders, and a matching feathered headpiece. The shoulder piece came off in two, as handheld fans they waved around for the audience. Trinity the Tuck was impressed, shouting, “Come on full production, let’s get sickening!” 

  • Local favorite Martina Marraccino of Queer Circus wore an ornate green dress with plants coming from it. It contrasted beautifully against their bright red gloves and stilettos. Their silver headpiece sparkled, and had plant life bursting out the top. Trinity joked about being “hypnotized” by this performer in the dressing room. “Don’t ‘dickmatize’ me, bitch!”

  • The gorgeous Moéh stood tall in a pink dress with a squiggle design, a black belt and black shoulder pads. Their blonde-with-dark-roots wig recalled Madonna’s Hard Candy era hair looks.

  • Rosie Bottoms wowed the crowd wearing a red wig, and a floral print dress with a large bird puppet coming out the front. The puppet was hand-operated, and created the illusion that they were riding on its back. This was achieved by Rosie wearing long stilts on their legs, covered with bird leg-patterned material.

  • Priscilla Yuicy did their best runway walk onto the stage, soundtracked to Rihanna’s “Phresh Off the Runway.” They rocked a large updo, a green felt jacket, and long silver boots. The coat came off to reveal a silver, chain mail-inspired dress. The music transitioned into an audio recording of Samirah Raheem’s epic anti-slut shaming conversation with Jesse Peterson, which has gone viral. 

Round two was the performance category, which included lip synced performances and even some live instrumentation. DJ Izzie P kept things moving with minimal downtime between performers’ tracks.

  • The bouncy Carińo broke it down to a Spanish-Language dance track. Their intricate arm choreography and death drop were so good, Trinity asked them to teach the audience how to pronounce their name so they wouldn’t mess it up.

  • Allota Shots came out dressed like Mary Poppins, umbrella and all. They performed along to a dubstep mega mix of songs from the classic Disney flick. Shots even spiced Poppins up by taking off their overcoat to reveal a slinky bodysuit underneath. The performance inspired Trinity the Tuck to troll the crowd, saying, “If you can spell ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ I’ll give you $500… and if you believe me, I’m lying!” 

  • Double entendre queen Giselle Ovarmé straddled a venue staircase as they entered wearing large, holographic angel wings and a shiny costume. The iridescent outfit played well in the stage lights, soundtracked to a lip-sync of “The Cold” by Exitmusic. During the final chorus, the angel wings were revealed to be rigged with dazzling LED lights.

  • Meshika Shadows slayed in a green, glittery kimono-shaped dress. They showed off their lip-sync skills to P!nk’s cover of “A Million Dreams” from the film The Greatest Showman, before a high energy transition into Katy Perry’s “Part of Me,” including several many cartwheels back and forth across the stage. Trinity was impressed by the full costume change Shadows did between the two songs. 

  • Laydee Swallowz donned a short, white 1920s flapper dress. Their lip-sync was to Miss Shirley Bassey’s legendary vocal recording of “History Repeating.” She had a classy updo with gems in it. They had several layers which came off, including a chest piece that revealed a pink triangle, and a back piece that revealed the word “RESIST.” They ended the performance with a fist of power. Trinity the Tuck complemented their Bob Fosse-inspired moves. 

  • Victoria Boom Boom Gotti came correct with a remix of Kesha’s “Woman." Gotti led the crowd in a clap-along as they yanked off a smock that revealed a black body suit underneath, complete with revealing cutouts. Their high energy choreo stunned the audience, as did their death drop into a rain of cash. Trinity was also shook, stating “I wouldn’t wanna lip sync against her.”

  • Ty Torres came back to deliver an amazing performance of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. Torres’ denim cowboy look with human and devil makeup on either side of their face perfectly fit the song’s lyrics. Torres did not have a fiddle like the song references, saxophone, which they played live. “That’s a talent,” Trinity declared. 

  • Martina Marraccino returned to the mic for an impressive live vocal performance of “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga. Their singing showed restraint, was on pitch, and sounded great alongside a live-sounding acoustic guitar recording. Their yellow and black cow-print smock was hilarious and went with the country sound of the track. Their vibrato was gorgeous, and a fellow audience member agreed with me. Trinity couldn’t resist referencing her All Stars 4 sister Monique Heart by saying, “Yes, yellow cow stunning!” 

  • Moéh lip-synced Florence and the Machine’s 2018 cover of the classic song “Stand by Me.” The stage lights accentuated Moéh’s gorgeous white wig and pink and silver gown. 

  • Rosie Bottoms came for blood with a high-energy performance of “Scheiße” by Lady Gaga. Wearing an aquamarine, see-through lace jumpsuit and white slouchy boots, Bottoms brought the house down with big choreography. This included a death drop which went into high-octane floor choreography. An astounded Trinity said, “I’m out of breath just watching her. I need to go to the emergency room!”

  • Priscilla Yuicy also brought the heat with the Ciara song “Got Me Good”; cool timing, because Ciara was a guest judge on that night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4. Their red glitter cape come off to reveal an orange dress with a black lace back. In a twist of events, that dress also came off, unveiling a jeweled red bodysuit. Like Bottoms before them, Juicy dropped to the floor to do intricate floorwork. Yuicy's dancing here was some of the fiercest of the night. 

After Bottoms and Yuicy almost literally brought The Pourhouse down with their savage, high-energy performances, Trinity the Tuck welcomed all the contestants back to the stage. She delivered a powerful speech about how much the night and the tour at large meant to her, before asking the crowd to vote for their favorite performers by cheering the loudest for their pick. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com

One by one, contestants were lovingly eliminated and thanked for their work. Lots of standouts left the stage, before it was down to Rosie Bottoms and Priscilla Yuicy. Bottoms won by a small crowd noise margin, so Trinity declared Yuicy would also advance to the national round of the Love of the Art Tour competition. For their slayage, Bottoms won $500 and Yuicy snatched $100. Trinity thanked the Minneapolis crowd, which was audibly delighted to have two representatives going to Los Angeles. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Photo: DerekPlease.com


Who’s your favorite drag queen, local to you? Tag them in a tweet to me! @DerekPlease